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Nancy Pelosi. Picture: REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger
Nancy Pelosi. Picture: REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

Washington — US President Joe Biden must decide quickly whether to stay in the 2024 White House race, former House speaker and Biden ally Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday while declining to say definitively that she wanted him to run.

In an opinion piece published on Wednesday in the New York Times, Democrat fundraiser and Hollywood actor George Clooney withdrew his support.

Pelosi’s remarks, which ignored Biden’s repeated insistence that he remains in the race, suggested he could face a fresh wave of doubts from fellow Democrats.

For nearly two weeks the 81-year-old Biden has sought to stem the loss of support of Democratic legislators, donors and other allies worried he might lose the November 5 vote to Republican Donald Trump, 78, after Biden’s halting June 27 debate performance.

The president has repeated he will be the Democratic candidate and that he believes he can beat Trump.

Pelosi said on MSNBC she was encouraging her colleagues on Capitol Hill with concerns about Biden to refrain from airing them while he hosts defence alliance Nato leaders in Washington this week.

“I’ve said to everyone: let’s just hold off. Whatever you’re thinking, either tell somebody privately, but you don’t have to put that out on the table until we see how we go this week,” she said, describing Biden’s strong remarks at the Nato summit on Tuesday as “spectacular”.

She declined to say definitively that she wanted Biden to run. “I want him to do whatever he decides to do,” she said. “We’re all encouraging him to make that decision because time is running short.”

US President Joe Biden in Washington, the US, July 2 2024. Picture: REUTERS/ELIZABETH FRANZ
US President Joe Biden in Washington, the US, July 2 2024. Picture: REUTERS/ELIZABETH FRANZ

Asked to respond, Biden’s campaign referred to a letter Biden sent Democrats in Congress that said he was “firmly committed” to staying in the race and beating Trump. It also noted Pelosi’s remark on Tuesday that she had “always been committed” to Biden.

Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal echoed Pelosi’s message later on Wednesday, saying he was “deeply concerned” about Biden’s ability to win the race.

In his opinion piece, Clooney wrote: “It’s devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fundraiser was not the Joe ‘big f-ing deal’ Biden of 2010. He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate,” Clooney wrote.

“We are not going to win in November with this president. On top of that, we won’t win the House, and we’re going to lose the Senate.”

Biden was greeted with raucous applause when he met a group of labour leaders, an important part of his political base, on Wednesday, joining an AFL-CIO executive council meeting in Washington to discuss “their shared commitment to defeating Donald Trump”, the Biden campaign said.

At the meeting, Biden listed high rents, expensive grocery prices and a lack of housing as issues to be tackled.

There was “a whole range of things we’re going to get done with your help in a second term”, Biden said. “We’re better positioned than any country in the world to own the remainder of the 21st century because of union labour.”

Labour votes were key to Biden’s win over Trump in competitive states, including Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania, in 2020.

Democrats in Congress remain deeply divided over whether to fall in line behind Biden or to urge him to step aside because of persistent questions about his health and acuity. Biden has said he is fit to serve but understands the questions.

Some have expressed concern that Biden continuing at the top of the ticket could cost the party the White House and both houses of Congress in November.

But public defections remain a small segment of the 213 Democratic-aligned House members, and the party’s leadership continues to back Biden publicly.

No members of the Senate have publicly said Biden should stand aside, though Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado said on Tuesday he did not believe Biden could beat Trump.

Biden, eager to change the story, has surrounded himself with communities of his staunchest supporters, including Black Democratic legislators and voters. His campaign has framed sticking with Biden as a return of the loyalty he has shown them through his half-century of public life.

Biden’s first 2020 campaign rally, in 2019, was at a Pittsburgh union hall, and the president has made his thick-as-thieves alignment with big labour leaders a major pillar of his populist economic platform. Last September, he became the first sitting president to join a union strike when he met United Auto Workers asking for raises.

Biden has used the Nato summit as a global stage, including his forceful speech denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Wednesday, he will hold meetings with Nato leaders and then host a dinner for heads of state.

Vice-president Kamala Harris, who is the party’s top alternative should Biden drop his candidacy, will speak to the Black Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in Dallas after a Las Vegas campaign stop on Tuesday.

After the Nato summit, Biden will hit the road again, travelling to two of the competitive states, Michigan and Nevada, that he must sway to defeat Trump.


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